Using Care Groups to Build Resilience in Food Security and Community Health Programs
Presenter: Hibret Getahun, Ethiopia Health Advisor, GOAL; Moderator: Tom Davis, TOPS Social & Behavior Change Senior Specialist; Senior Director of Program Quality Improvement, Food for the Hungry
A Care Group is a group of 10-15 volunteer, community-based health educators who regularly meet together with NGO project staff for training and supervision. Each of these volunteers then go out at least monthly to do health promotion with a small cohort of mothers of young children. Care Groups are different from typical mothers’ groups in that each volunteer is selected by the mothers she serves and is responsible for regularly visiting a relatively-fixed cohort of 10-15 of her neighbors each month, sharing what she has learned and facilitating behavior change at the household level.
Care Groups have shown remarkable success in achieving social & behavioral change and decreasing malnutrition. During this session, participants were given a quick overview of the Care Group model. They were then shown the results and lessons learned from GOAL/Ethiopia’s Care Group project, a PM2A Care Group Project in Burundi (implemented by Catholic Relief Services, Food for the Hungry and International Medical Corps), as well as summary results from 13 projects in eight countries which showed that Care Groups are systematically outperforming other models of health and nutrition promotion in terms of behavior change.
Participants were then divided into small groups to discuss the Care Group Criteria document. Highlights from that discussion included that storytelling, songs and visual aids are all very helpful tools for teaching lessons. Also, the decision of who should be elected to be the Care Group leader can be a political one, since village chiefs often prefer to pick a woman from a family who has a high status in the community. However, operations research studies have found that Care Group leaders that are selected by the other mothers that they will serve are more likely to remain as volunteers for the entire length of project.
The Way Forward: Participants made recommendations in the following areas:
Research and Evidence Base
Explore whether linking Care Group mothers with savings group associations will improve sustainability.
Make it easier to find the caregroups.org website when searching online (ed. look for link on www.fsnnetwork.org)
Create a ‘caregroups’ Wikipedia page